War in Ukraine could worsen COVID-19 pandemic, says WHO

pharmafile | March 17, 2022 | News story | Business Services  

WHO has expressed concern that the war in Ukraine could worsen the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is aiming to do more to limit the spread of infectious diseases.

The region is experiencing a decline in cases from the previous week, but there is significant risk of severe disease and death due to low vaccination rates in Ukraine, along with the more than two million who have fled the country to surrounding areas. Ukraine’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is around 34%, and the neighbouring Moldova’s is approximately 29%, according to Our World in Data.

Ukraine has seen a total of 791,021 new cases of COVID-19 and 8,012 new deaths in Ukraine and in surrounding countries between March 3 and 9, as reported by a WHO situation report.

“Unfortunately, this virus will take opportunities to continue to spread,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, during a news briefing. “We as an organisation recognise that countries are in very different situations; they’re facing different challenges. There’s a lot of movement and refugees associated with this crisis.”

Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, also anticipated a rise in COVID-19 in Ukraine, “without a doubt.” He attributed the predicted increase to lack of testing, halted vaccinations, and a stressed, war-weary population with already low vaccination rates.

“Humanitarian partners and health care workers must be able to safely maintain and strengthen essential health service delivery, including immunisation against COVID-19 and polio, and the supply of life-saving medicines for civilians across Ukraine as well as to refugees crossing into neighbouring countries,” the WHO said in a joint statement with UNICEF and UNFPA. The statement called for an end to attacks on Ukrainian healthcare systems. “Health services should be systematically available at border crossings, including rapid care and referral processes for children and pregnant women.”

Lina Adams

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